Bilateral agreements until 1999

The basis for economic relations was laid in 1972 with the Free Trade Agreement, which was approved by 72.5% of the Swiss electorate as well as by a majority of the Swiss cantons. This was followed by the Insurance Agreement in 1989 and the Agreement on the Carriage of Goods in 1990, which was replaced by the expanded Agreement on Customs Facilitation and Security signed in 2009.

Switzerland, together with the other members of EFTA, negotiated the creation of the European Economic Area (EEA) with the forerunner of the EU, the European Community (EC), on the basis of the following four fundamental freedoms: freedom of movement of persons, goods, capital and services. Switzerland signed the corresponding EEA Agreement in May 1992 and in the same month submitted a request in Brussels to begin negotiations for membership of the EC. However, following the rejection of the EEA Agreement by the Swiss electorate and cantons on 6 December 1992, this application was put on hold. In January 1993, the Federal Council announced that Switzerland would not start negotiations on membership of the EC and wished instead to pursue its relations with the Community on a bilateral basis. This led to the negotiation and conclusion of the two packages of bilateral agreements (Bilaterals I and II) as well as further agreements.